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Written by Beth Lapides   

Beth Lapides: My Other Car Is A Yoga Mat
Beth Lapides: My Other Car Is A Yoga Mat

My Other Car Is A Yoga Mat

I’ve always been kind of embarrassed by how much I need my yoga teachers to tell me what a great job I’m doing. It’s not a job after all, it’s yoga. Not that I don’t love to be challenged, corrected, adjusted, egged on, pushed or even teased. But I need the cheerleading too.

I love to hear those special words: good, great, super duper! And it’s even better when my name’s attached. Really good, Beth.

That’s why I love having a regular studio; a place where everybody knows your name. Just like on Cheers, the TV show. Your name is your own personal cheer. Yay: your name here!

I loved to be cheered on so I’m always cheering other people on too: friends, baristas, the guy in front of me in line at the supermarket. I’m afraid I might have scared off one or two yoga newbies with overenthusiastic praise. That was your first class? You did great! Good for you! That was a really hard class, too. Next time you might find it a little easier without the socks.

I notice that when I teach writing/performing workshops, the more I cheer my students on, the easier it is for them to hear my notes. There’s something about the phrase Here’s what’s so great about you that really seems to open up the ears.

I first learned about the power of cheerleading in high school, when I was a literal cheerleader. The kind with pom-poms and a miniskirt. People are always surprised when I tell them about that part of my life. I guess it’s because I’m bookish, anti-authoritarian and afraid of heights. Or maybe it’s just the dark curly hair.

I wasn’t exactly a Laker Girl or anything. I was a cheerleader for the JCC: The Jewish Community Center of New Haven. Beep beep ungawa, the JCC has got the powa. I never did any flips or pop downs or even any cartwheels. But we did do a pyramid. Jews building a pyramid? Hmm. The historical symbolic resonance did not even occur to us. So ok, maybe we didn’t exactly bring it on, but we screamed our lungs out for the team. And we put out for them too.


You can’t translate seed sounds into other words. You simply have to experience them and use other words to try to describe that experience. And of course seeds are activated by…? Sun! Ra ra ram!


Sometimes we minimize the power of cheerleading. We hire life coaches…not life cheerleaders. But if you want evidence of the power of cheerleading, look at the mega-media success of Oprah. Op-rah ra ra!

Yes ra ra ra! The most primordial cheer. And ra? Etymologically, ra is attributed to hurrah. But where did hurrah come from? My guess is that hurrah comes from Ra, the Egyptian Sun God. And if there is any better cheerleader than the sun, I don’t know what it is. Grow! Grow! Grow! Fewer hours of the sun cheering us on may be why we get more depressed in the winter.

In fact, we’re learning that deficiencies of Vitamin D, a vitamin that our bodies produce in response to the sun’s rays, increases a person’s risk of developing cancer. It turns out all that staying in and avoiding the sun, all that sun blocking, is just as lethal as overexposure. We can take D3 supplements, but it’s good to actually spend some time with being in union with the sun, closing our eyes and saying ra ra ra.

After all, what is the center of most Hatha Yoga practices? The surya namaskar, the sun salute! In fact the ha in hatha is Sanskrit for sun (ha ha! = laughing, and so laughing is cheering). Tha is the moon. Us. That which is being cheered.

This year on the winter solstice, the darkest, longest night of the year, Greg and I did a practice of 108 sun salutations. We rock! (rah-k!) we kept saying to cheer ourselves on. I’m still sore. But, we did get through it, thanks to our mutual cheerleading.

For yogis there’s another level of ra ra ra. Ram is one of the Sanskrit bija mantra or seed sounds. When I first learned about seed sounds I wanted to know what they meant. But you can’t translate seed sounds into other words. You simply have to experience them and use other words to try to describe that experience. And of course seeds are activated by…? Sun! Ra ra ram!

Each of the seven major chakras (wheels of energy) in our bodies has a seed sound associated with it. And Ram is the seed of the Manipura (manipurRA!) what’s known as the third chakra. It’s this chakra that corresponds to the solar (like the sun!) plexus. The bright yellow, sun-colored, will-connected, Vitamin D, you-can-Do-it centric, solar plexus. When we chant Ram, we channel sun energy. We’re solar-powered.

Probably the most well-known cheering in yoga studios today happens with Anusara certified and inspired teachers. I know some yogis aren’t into the Anusara practice of applauding after demos. But I say give a cheer, get a cheer. And practicing at Anusara studios helped me be a little less embarrassed about my desire to be cheered on because I realized that I enjoy it just as much when I hear other people getting cheered on as I do when the cheering is for me.


Where did hurrah come from? My guess is that hurrah comes from Ra, the Egyptian Sun God. And if there is any better cheerleader than the sun, I don’t know what it is.


More evidence that we are all one. And that the cheer vibrations are in and of themselves good for everyone. Of course there are lots of ways to cheer people on: Facebook messages, gifts and prizes, or clapping. And according to light and energy workers, clapping is one of the most effective ways to clear a space. Good to know if you find yourself caught without your trusty sage or if perhaps, you happen to make your living as a performer. Say as a comedian, where your job is basically to cheer people up.

Dr. Emoto and other new edge scientists are doing experiments that prove cheering is more than a feel-good panacea, that positive reinforcement has measurable positive results. Which is to say, the phrase good for you, actually is good for you. So I’m accepting the cheering support of others without feeling quite so squeamish about it.

And I’m redoubling my own cheerleading too. So congratulations for making it through this column. You’re doing great! Good for you: your name here!

Beth Lapides cheers people on in workshops where she, and her partner Greg Miller, teach writers, performers, yoga teachers and other humans how to cheer themselves up by understanding and telling their own story. For more info on this and Beth’s shows visit bethlapides.com or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
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